In the Corner of the Attic
by Susanne Mathies
The door is right in front of me, but I’m scared of touching it. I’ve been planning to open it for a long time, to give it a small push, step onto the dusty wooden boards and examine the treasures of the attic by the pale orange light that is filtered through the grimy window. Outside, the wind is worrying the trees and the roof tiles, but the attic offers a muted haven. I’d like this silent world to be mine, and mine alone.
Maybe I wouldn’t want this so badly if I wasn’t tempted by glimpses of the room through the cracks between the door and its frame. The door is old and heavy, and its lopsided bulk leaves a large bright triangle at the bottom. The opening is like a puppet theatre with partly drawn curtains, just before the performance is going to start.
At the back, a glass front rises from a shining metal bar: the lower part of a cabinet. I can make out a slim shining cylinder behind the glass, part of the steam engine I was never allowed to play with. Next to it, an oval piece of cloth presses against the pane, surrounded by stitches and a furry rim. This is Teddy’s foot. Teddy never got a proper name because when Mum gave him to me she said, ‘This is Teddy, and he loves you very much.’ I was very little at that time, but I remember this as Mum died soon afterwards.
With a wild gust, the wind rattles the window frame and blows it open. A pattern of dark patches appears on the floorboards. I have to act now before the rain spoils everything. Gathering my strength, I lean against the door. It lets itself be pushed into the room with a wailing creak. I step onto the floor and stop in horror.
Deep dark eyes stare at me from a broad pale face. A figure of my own height is standing opposite me, dressed in a long white shift. Stringy dark pigtails hang down over her shoulders. She opens her mouth so that it becomes a big dark hole. She is about to scream. I wish she wouldn’t do that.
‘Mummy! A ghost! In the cupboard!’ Her voice is shrill, and she backs away from me towards the staircase. Turning on her heel, she loses one of her slippers.
I come after her, trying to hold her back, but I can’t touch her. I want to shout out, ‘Take care at the turning, one of the floorboards is loose’, but I’m not able to utter a word.
She bounces down the stairs, stumbles, and falls with a thud. I see her from above, a crumpled bundle of white, lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs.
Just as I had lain there, all those years ago.
Susanne Mathies lives in Zuerich as an expat. She reads philosophy and writes novels and short stories, with varying success. Contact Susannne.